Life through the lens of a two-time kidney transplant recipient.
June was a big month. I celebrated my first Kidney-versary, ran a 5k, and camped in the great outdoors. This is all because of my donor.
Part of this story means I have to go back to January.
In January, I made the commitment to be healthier and take better care of myself, because I owed it to my body and my new kidney. So, I started WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and decided I was going to run my first 5K ever. After ending dialysis and receiving my new kidney, I felt free to eat most anything and it was out of control. For the first time in almost two years, my ankles wouldn’t swell when I ate salty foods and that felt like permission to eat salty foods. I blamed all of my cravings and eating habits on the high doses of prednisone. I wanted food. So when January came around and New Year’s resolutions were being made, losing weight and making a long term commitment to being healthier were my priorities. For the first time ever, I was in the obese category for my height and weight and I had to do something about that. Previously, one of my doctors at OHSU had mentioned that WW is statistically the most successful way to lose weight. At the time I laughed at the idea of joining WW. I thought I didn’t need that, I could do it on my own. Turns out I couldn’t. I need the accountability and the support group. I’ve been a member since January and I have been enjoying the program. The program has made me more accountable for achieving my goals. One goal of those goals was running and training for my first 5k.
I’ve never been a runner, so I thought “why not run a 5K?”. It would help get me in to shape and hopefully lose some of the dialysis and post-transplant weight. I kept telling people I was going to run my first 5K, my idea was if I tell more people, I’ll actually do it. One of the people I told was my nephrologist and, to my surprise, he said he’d run it with me. I just had to choose the run and he’d be there. I chose a race in June at a winery, because I would have 6 months to train and there was wine.
On June 2, Joshua, my doctor, and I ran a 5k together! It was a difficult and challenging run. I had to walk some, but I finished it. We all finished it together. Joshua and my doctor were so kind and sweet. They were beside me the whole time. When I walked up the hills, they walked up the hills with me. They pushed me to keep going and for that, I am very grateful.
I am very thankful to have a doctor who has been on this journey with me for 8 years. He has been a huge support in my care and I feel is a huge advocate for me in making quality healthcare decisions. Not everybody is as fortunate to have a supportive doctor. Thank you!
I am also very thankful to Joshua who before this 5k, did not like running. We both pushed ourselves to be better and run this together.
On June 18th, I had my one-year post-transplant kidney biopsy. This is standard procedure and the doctors do a biopsy to make sure that your transplanted kidney is not showing any signs of rejection at the cellular level. I spent a full day at OHSU getting labs done, doing the biopsy, and laying down with a 10-pound bag over my transplanted kidney. We would wait a week for the results to come in.
On June 20th, I celebrated my first Kidney-versary. Each year post-transplant is a celebration. A celebration of life and things to come. This year, I took the time to reflect on how this kidney saved my life and what I was able to accomplish because of my transplant and donor. I wrote my donor’s family too. I know that this time of year will be hard for them, but I hope they can find comfort in knowing that their loved one saved my life and others.
As predicted, on Wednesday, June 26th, I received the news that my kidney was showing no signs of rejection! Meaning it is healthy and doing well! A perfect birthday gift for Joshua…as June 26th was his birthday. Which leads me to write about our camping trip for his birthday.
While on dialysis, I wasn’t able to travel or sleep anywhere without my machine. So this camping trip was a significant milestone for me. It was the first time in our relationship that Joshua and I went camping together, and my first real camping experience too. There are two other times I recall sleeping in a tent on a campground, one weekend on the beach in Hawaii and one cold night in Colorado. Neither of those experiences did I cook food or spend hours in the great outdoors.
Joshua and I camped at Smith Rock and it was breathtakingly beautiful. It was also Laika’s first time camping too! I think she enjoyed being outdoors as much as we did. My only complaint is that she took up most of my sleeping pad at night while I was trying to sleep.
While at Smith Rock, Joshua, Laika and I hiked 8 miles around the park. This was the first time in about 4 years that I felt physically fit and able to complete a difficult hike. I didn’t have to stop multiple times, I wasn’t completely exhausted and I was able to keep up with Joshua. I can’t tell you how proud I was that I did the Summit Loop Hike at Smith Rock. And, how wonderful it felt to wake up in the morning surrounded by nature.
Many of the successes, milestones, and adventures this month remind me of how thankful I am for my kidney. I accomplished things and I challenged myself in new ways that wouldn’t have been possible without this kidney. I hope each month you will join me on this journey where you’ll read about how my quality of life is better because of my organ donor.
May each day be a celebration of life, love, and gratitude for my donor and their family.